Renowned critic of the arts Michael Hootman examines our history
The History of Gayness.
Although I have no formal qualifications I am a keen amateur historian and like to impart my knowledge to eager and receptive minds. For example did you know that the years 1634, 1647 and 1698 all happened in the *seventeenth* century? Incredible! So hang on to your hats as I take you on a whirlwind tour of gaiety through the ages.
As many of you know gayness comes from ancient Greece. But did you know it was actually discovered by one of its top mathematicians? According to some saucy vases in the British Museum he was trying to work out which side of the triangle was the hypotenuse but due to a misplaced decimal point and an accident with a bunsen burner he ended up discovering gayness. He checked over his calculations and then quickly sent for his lab assistant who, fortunately, was young, lithe and comely of face (quite literally as it turned out)!
The next big mention of gayness is a few hundred years later in the Old Testament. Somewhere near the back, just before the sports pages, there’s a bit which forbids men sleeping with other men. But of course Leviticus also bans the eating of shellfish and the mixing of cotton and silk. A prohibition conveniently forgotten by right-wingers who use the bible to back up their own prejudices. (In all fairness it should be mentioned that although Oscar Wilde was arrested for sodomy he was actually imprisoned for eating prawn fricassee).
A few years later they brought out a sequel – Bible 2: The New Testament – which, like most sequels, was just a retread of the original. Here it’s St Paul who says that men who lie with men will be damned to the fiery pit for all eternity. There is much dispute amongst scholars over the exact interpretation of this passage and many gay Christians see it as being a coded warning against double parking.
Then, in the early part of the 20th century, cinema led to the dissemination of hitherto heretical ideas. The German masterpiece Sunset: A Symphony of Two Souls (English Title: Knobs Aplenty!) represented a watershed in what could be shown on screen. A sensitive study of two men from a small village who form a deep friendship after experiencing the horrors of the First World War – the film attracted much controversy. The British Board of Film Classification, stricter that their German counterparts, had to cut a brief shot of the two leads holding hands (and also a rather longer shot of them jizzing up over each other).
Which brings us up right up to today. Perhaps the most important advance for gaiety in recent times has been the invention of the Internet. Now even the oldest and most wrinkled amongst us can join a dating site, set up a profile and upload a picture of a twenty-year-old Czech boy. We’ve come a long way indeed!
Michael Hootman is arts editor of Gscene Magazine. He has had a number of short stories published and is currently working on his first novel. He is unaccountably single
Article | gayexpress